Every startup needs a good name. The trick is finding one that hasn't been taken.
One startup real estate brokerage in New York, which was known until today as Suitey, spent five months coming up with a new name. Its punny moniker was "really hard to say and spell," creating "a bit of a word-of-mouth issue," said David Walker, the 26-year-old co-founder.
The name the company finally came up with, TripleMint, seemed to convey just the right feeling. It refers to a real estate term that describes an apartment whose living space, kitchen, and bathrooms are in immaculate condition. The company, which has raised $1.65 million from investors including Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss, the twins famous for accusing Mark Zuckerberg of stealing their idea for Facebook, figured the TripleMint name reflected "the technology-enabled side of our business," Walker said. (The Winklevoss brothers dropped their Facebook lawsuit in 2011 after a settlement.)
There was just one wrinkle.
"It was kind of after the fact, when we had picked the name and searched for the logo and everything, that we realized there was a Triple Mint Real Estate," Walker said.
Triple Mint Real Estate — with a space between the first two words — is a small real estate brokerage in Austin, Texas, that was started in 2006. Walker and Philip Lang, 27, who started Suitey together in 2011, said they were aware of the Texas company, but they didn't see its existence as an issue. They didn't bother reaching out.
"It's like a four-person company that's in Austin," Lang said. "It's one of those things that doesn't really worry us. Their name is Triple Mint Real Estate, not TripleMint."
But Jeannie DeFrese, the founder of Triple Mint Real Estate, said she would have appreciated a phone call.
"It might have been polite to contact the other Triple Mint Real Estate out there," DeFrese, 47, told BuzzFeed News.
She said she had no plans to do business in New York and didn't necessarily mind there being another TripleMint in the Big Apple.
But if TripleMint expanded into Texas one day?
"If they do want a national presence, then that's probably not the best name to come into Texas with, because it's something that I've already used and established," DeFrese said. "It's mine."
Walker said in an email that he wanted to expand nationally and bring TripleMint to "every major urban market" in the United States. But he added that he had "no plans to expand to Texas at this point, so I'm not worried."
His company employs a fleet of brokers who are paid based on commissions and also receive a bonus for customer satisfaction. TripleMint also offers buyers and renters a "concierge moving service," providing discounts on cable, a gym membership, and other services. Walker said he wanted to appeal to the "Google generation."
The Triple Mint in Texas has smaller ambitions. The company consists of DeFrese, who is a real estate broker, and three real estate agents. DeFrese said she operates just in Austin and the surrounding area, primarily in residential real estate.
Disputes over names are not unusual in the world of tech. Last year, when Facebook unveiled an app called Paper, a company that already had built an app with that name complained. More recently, Zendesk, the customer service software maker, sought to prevent other companies from using the word "zen" in their names.
As these fights go, the TripleMint one is relatively minor. Asked whether she was considering any legal action, DeFrese said, "It's not in my plans this week."
The two companies, however, will occupy awkwardly similar spaces online. The TripleMint in New York owns the triplemint.com domain. But the Texas company tweets from the @TripleMint handle.
And DeFrese doesn't exactly harbor warm feelings toward the New York upstarts.
"When I started my business that's the first thing I did, search the name," she said. "There was nobody operating with that name. That is the due diligence you do — search the name."